When Great Yarmouth and Gorleston had a hospital on each side of the river

PUBLISHED: 20:11 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:11 23 September 2019

The recently-built Gorleston Hospital on Lowestoft Road before the war.

The recently-built Gorleston Hospital on Lowestoft Road before the war.


Older readers with long memories will readily recall the era when the borough of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston had two general hospitals, one on either side of the river.

Yarmouth hospital in 1839, succeeding a short-lived one created in a house in Queen Street, off South Quay, the previous year.Yarmouth hospital in 1839, succeeding a short-lived one created in a house in Queen Street, off South Quay, the previous year.

It was against that background that I browsed through Peggotty's Annual, the twin hospitals' summer magazine published 80 years ago in 1939. Its editor was EJ Gay - not a journalist but on the managerial staff of our newspaper office in Regent Street.

The 50-plus page magazine was produced by a committee augmented by Yarmouth Round Tablers.

Yes, it bears my long-standing pen-name but also includes a feature, Interviewing the Stars, about Walter Paskin, for years the producer of the popular summer shows in the Wellington Pier Pavilion. His interviewer? "Peggotty, the local evening newspaper contributor."

No, not me - I was only a child then - but I have perpetuated the Peggotty pen-name that had its origins in the Eastern Evening News in the early 1930s. A re-jig resulted in that nightly Yarmouth feature, to which I first contributed in 1955, being axed bit it was granted a new lease of life by the Mercury in 1987.

A sailing ship berthed on Yarmouth South Quay, a photograph in the hospitals' magazine.A sailing ship berthed on Yarmouth South Quay, a photograph in the hospitals' magazine.

The 1939 magazine's articles include one about the history of our twin hospitals; a light-hearted contribution by author RH Mottram; a feature on local press gangs (no, not journalists - villains kidnapping men to augment ships' crews); Breydon Water (by "RH", possibly Robin Harrison); Lightships Old and New; Exploring Norfolk's Waterways; our unique Rows (by RH Teasdel); and famed artist John Sell Cotman's local association by D Kingston Rudd.

Six puzzles were included for reader participation, including the challenge to estimate the size of the catch and nationality of the drifter landing that 1938 autumn's largest single-night herring haul in Yarmouth or Lowestoft, thus winning the coveted Prunier Trophy.

A tie-breaker would be 1939's total number of crans of herring landed here!

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That best-haul (190 crans) earned the 1939 trophy for the Lowestoft drifter Present Friends. The impending war meant the fishery's suspension for the duration.

The prizes for that herring puzzler were a woman's silk raincoat (given by local manufacturer Johnsons), vouchers to dine at Madame Prunier's London fish restaurant, and boxes of bloaters from Henry Sutton.

Another, equally close to my heart, called on readers to pen a 40-word tribute to Yarmouth and Gorleston as a holiday resort, inspired by Peggotty's words in Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield that it was
well-known that "Yarmouth, upon the whole, is the finest place in the universe."

There was a stringent condition: the tribute's words must be composed from consecutive pages of the magazine! Prizes were two guineas (£2.10 today), three pairs of silk stockings, and a case of Lacon's bottled beer.

Some advertisers mirrored the upbeat approach. For example, Yarmouth Co-operative Society urged readers: "Keep out of Hospital!", recommending "Drink Co-Operative pasteurised milk." It included a picture of its elegant Market Place premises - still there today although occupied by other retailers.

"First Aid? Thirst Aid?" Steward and Patteson's beers were suggested in these terms by the brewery.

Butcher Bellamys declared that it was in business at the time Charles Dickens was writing David Copperfield and creating Peggotty. Rival butcher Gordon W Mays in Gorleston's Baker Street proclaimed his boiled briskets and ham on cut, all prepared on the premises.

Grocer Busseys claimed its quality and value for money resulted in "our popularity amongst all discriminating folk."

First Aid? "In the case of money difficulties, it is opening an account at the Trustee Savings Bank on the Market Place and in Baker Street, Gorleston."

Other long-gone advertisers are probably familiar with veteran readers: hardware supplier Coopers in the town centre, Plattens department store in Broad Row and central Gorleston, Boulton's furniture and loose covers (North Quay), Southey's sports goods (Market Gates), Hayman's Garage on Lowestoft Road in Gorleston, grocers Barnes (Market Place) and Bussey (Gorleston High Street), jeweller Aldred (town centre)...

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